Online social networking and trade union membership: what the Facebook phenomenon truly means for labor organizers

Publication date: 1 Feb 2010 | Publication type: Journal article/book/chapter | Theme: Employment & Social policy | NIESR Author(s): Bryson, A | External Author(s): Gomez, R. and Willman, P. | JEL Classification: J51 | Journal: Labor History No. 1 Vol. 51

Union membership has declined precipitously in a number of countries,including in the United States, over the past fifty years. Can anything be done to stem this decline? This article argues that union voice is a positive attribute (among others) of union membership that is experiential in nature 10 and that, unlike the costs of unionization, can be discerned only after exposure to a union. This makes the act of Ôselling' unionism to workers (and to some extent firms as well) difficult. Supportive social trends and social customs are required in order to make unionization's hard-to-observe benefits easier to discern. Most membership-based institutions
15 face the same dilemma. However, recent social networking organizations such as Facebook have been rather successful in attracting millions of active members in a relatively short period of time. The question of whether the union movement can appropriate some of these lessons is discussed with reference to historical and contemporary examples.

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